Capturing the voices of young people who have been permanently excluded from school: reflections and aspirations

This paper seeks to advance understanding of the educational experiences of young people who have been excluded from school, including their perceived successes and future aspirations.
The objectives were to:
1. Explore the student’s experience of schooling
2. Explore student views towards future aspirations

My research is centred on perceptions, consequently ‘acceptable data’ was the participant’s first-hand account of their experiences and life stories, which lends itself to a qualitative approach. The sampling I used was convenience sampling as I have established links with the PRU selected for this research as I am a Safeguarding Governor. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in a Pupil Referral Unit with five students in Key Stage three and four. These lasted for around forty-five minutes. With the aim of building a relationship with the students before the interviews I also spent a day a week at the PTU for around two months and kept field notes.

Four salient themes from the results are ‘reintegration’, ‘relationships’, ‘career aspirations’ and bullying.  Reintegration – When I asked the students if they wanted to go back into mainstream, all five stated that they did not. These responses clearly demonstrate that the aim of reintegrating PRU students into mainstream school, is not necessary shared by all children.  Relationships – Teachers featured significantly in their responses. This suggests that the students perceive school as more than just a place to achieve qualifications; it is an environment where interpersonal relationships are formed.  Career Aspirations – These findings demonstrate that the students do have ambitions and want to contribute to society. There is also a difference between what they would consider a ‘dream job’ and what job they have decided is more appropriate.  Bullying – The students’ experience of bullying whilst in mainstream could be a contributing factor to their reluctance to return to mainstream I will consider the inclusion debate questioning is reintegration in the best interest of the student?